Former Dundee star Kane Hemmings has revealed he had suicidal thoughts while at Dens Park last season.
The Burton Albion striker opened up on the mental health issues that have affected him throughout his career in an interview with the Guardian – and lifted the lid on his off-field battles while at Dundee.
The 28-year-old says he “broke down” in front of manager James McPake and kit lady Lorraine Noble at the stadium last year, but believes it allowed him to get the help he needed.
Hemmings departed for Burton at the end of last season and says moving to his hometown club was “a massive weight off [his] shoulders”.
During his first season at Dens, the striker was enjoying the best campaign of his career on the pitch.
Off it, though, Hemmings was suffering.
In an essay called ‘Scared’ which was published anonymously in Mark Fleming’s book, “Confessions of a Football Chaplain”, Hemmings said: “I scored 26 goals in a season for Dundee and emotionally that was the worst season I had.
“I hated it.
“At the end of that season I broke down crying on the side of the M6 on my way home.
“I was thinking ‘WTF is wrong with me. I’ve just had the best season of my life and I hate it?’”
Speaking to the Guardian, Hemmings elaborated on his feelings of turmoil, including a “meltdown” at a friend’s partner’s 30th birthday party.
“I had a few drinks and I was just running about telling people I wanted to kill myself,” he said.
“I was taken home, passed out, woke up in the morning, got picked up and taken to training. I remember I went and sat in the kit woman’s (Lorraine Noble’s) room and just broke down to her.
“She went and got the manager (James McPake) and he was brilliant.
“He said: ‘Listen, just go home and get your head right.’
“That was a Monday and he said to come back in on the Friday. In a way, it was the best thing that happened to me because I got the help I needed.”
‘That really, really scared me’
Having emerged through the youth ranks at Rangers and made his debut in a Champions League qualifier against Malmo, Hemmings has had to deal with pressure from the very start of his career.
Following the financial implosion at Ibrox, the Englishman headed for Championship side Cowdenbeath but struggled with life at Central Park.
“It was a kick in the teeth, a kick to the ego,” he added.
“I loved my year at Cowdenbeath… but it’s not Rangers.
“I had to get rid of my car and I had to move in with a friend because it was the only place I could afford to live.
“I started a college course in sports coaching and I was going to college more than I was playing football.
“I held on to that for many years, thinking, ‘I could get this taken away from me at any point’, and that really, really scared me.
“It still scares me but I’m in a better place to deal with it now.”
‘It feels like you are floating’
Hemmings credits that to the help he received after breaking down at Dens Park.
His partner, Sophie, reached out to Mark Fleming at Positive Mental Health Scotland and Hemmings says he feels transformed after a number of sessions with Fleming’s wife Aileen.
“I would never have had these conversations two or three years ago. Never,” he said.
“I didn’t understand why I felt like I did so if I couldn’t figure it out, what was I meant to say to someone?
“Now I’m happy to talk to anyone about it.
“People are going to have bad days and bad weeks but it shouldn’t fester for years and years to the point where you’re saying the stuff I was saying.”
He added: “If you speak to someone to get help … I can’t tell you how good it feels after.
“It makes you feel unbelievable, once you delve into how you feel and openly speak to someone without feeling judgment.
“You walk out feeling like a totally different person. It feels like you are floating.”
Return to Burton
Returning home to England has also made a huge difference to Hemmings’ mental wellbeing.
Burton may be struggling at the foot of League One but, as well as being the club’s top scorer, Hemmings has been helping out at a local foodbank and vaccination rollouts at the club’s Pirelli Stadium.
“If I left the club, I’d like people to think I was out in the community and tried to make some sort of difference,” he added.
“One thing that became evident when I spoke to Aileen was that I feel like I need community around me.
“Moving home to Burton has been a massive weight off my shoulders.
“I moved away from home when I was 16 to go to Rangers so I was not at home for the first 10 years of my career.”
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